Coaster (commuter rail)
A Coaster departing Oceanside in July 2011.
|Service type||Commuter rail|
|Locale||San Diego County, California, United States|
|First service||February 27, 1995|
|Current operator(s)||Bombardier Transportation|
|Former operator(s)||Amtrak (1995-2005)|
|Ridership||5,600 (ave. weekday, 2012)|
|Annual ridership||1.6 million (2012)|
|Start||Oceanside Transit Center|
|Distance travelled||41 mi (66 km)|
|Average journey time||1 hour (60 minutes)|
|Line(s) used||The San Diego portion of the Surf Line|
|Rolling stock||7 locomotives|
28 passenger cars in service
5 locomotives on order
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Operating speed||90 miles per hour (140 km/h)|
|Track owner(s)||San Diego Association of Governments|
Coaster (stylized as COASTER) (reporting mark NCTC) is a commuter rail service that operates in the central and northern coastal regions of San Diego County, California, United States. The service is currently operated by Bombardier Transportation on contract with North County Transit District (NCTD). The service has eight stops and operates primarily during weekday peak periods, with additional weekend and holiday service.
The North San Diego County Transit Development Board was created in 1975 to consolidate and improve transit in northern San Diego County. Planning began for a San Diego–Oceanside commuter rail line - then called Coast Express Rail - in 1982. Funding for right-of-way acquisition and construction costs came from TransNet, a 1987 measure that imposed a 0.5% sales tax on San Diego County residents for transportation projects. The Board established the San Diego Northern Railway Corporation (SDNR) - a nonprofit operating subsidiary - in 1994. SDNR purchased 41 miles (66 km) of the Surf Line plus the 22-mile (35 km) Escondido Branch (later used for the SPRINTER) from the Santa Fe Railway that year.
COASTER service began on February 27, 1995. NCTD originally contracted Amtrak to provide personnel for Coaster trains. In July 2006, TransitAmerica Services took over the day-to-day operation of the commuter train, based on a five-year, $45 million contract with NCTD. In 2016, Bombardier Transportation replaced TransitAmerica as COASTER's operator.
San Diego County voters extended the TransNet sales tax through 2038, which includes funding for rail track upgrades. By the early 2010s, numerous improvements such as added double track and bridge replacements were in various stages of construction and design. As part of the broader North Coast Corridor project, approximately $1 billion is planned to be spent on new segments of double track between San Diego and Orange County.
NCTD plans to extend COASTER service north to Camp Pendleton The agency also plans to build limited-use stations at the Convention Center and the Del Mar Racetrack for use during major events.
More than 20 COASTER trains run on weekdays, with additional service on the weekends. As of the April 3, 2017 schedule, COASTER also added Friday Night service with trains running until a quarter after midnight. More weekend services operate during summer months and when there are special events (e.g. Padres games)
|Station||Zone||Connecting rail services|
|Oceanside Transit Center||1||Pacific Surfliner|
Metrolink (Orange County Line, Inland Empire-Orange County Line)
|Solana Beach||Pacific Surfliner|
|Old Town San Diego||3||Pacific Surfliner|
San Diego Trolley (Green Line)
|Santa Fe Depot
(Downtown San Diego)
San Diego Trolley (Green Line, Orange Line, Blue Line)
Connecting rail and bus transit services
The COASTER connects fully with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner at Oceanside, Solana Beach, Old Town Transit Center, and Santa Fe Depot in San Diego.
The COASTER also connects with the Metrolink rail system at Oceanside, providing connecting service to Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It connects to the San Diego Trolley (Green Line) and MTS buses at the Old Town Transit Center; it also connects to the San Diego Trolley (all lines) and MTS buses in the vicinity of the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego – including to the MTS Route 992 bus which offers direct service to Lindbergh Field from Downtown San Diego. Finally, the COASTER connects with BREEZE buses at all North San Diego County station stops (i.e. in Zone 1).
Fares and ticketing
The cost of COASTER tickets is based upon the number of zones traveled (see map). Fare collection is based on a proof-of-payment system: tickets must be purchased before boarding and are checked by roving fare inspectors. Monthly passes are available. All tickets and passes include transfer agreements with NCTD BREEZE buses and monthly passes include transfer with the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) buses and Trolleys. On January 20, 2011, the NCTD implemented a fare reduction – the fare reduction led to increased ridership on the COASTER and so was made a permanent fare reduction in September 2011. As of September 2019, regular one-way fares are as follows:
- Within one zone: $5
- Within two zones: $5.75
- Within three zones: $6.50
With proof of eligibility, senior citizens (ages 60 and over), people with disabilities, and Medicare cardholders receive a 50% discount on the above fares.
Riding the COASTER without a valid ticket may result in a penalty fare of up to $250. Riders cannot purchase tickets on board the train.
In September 2008, SANDAG introduced a new contactless "Compass Card", made possible by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc. The "Compass Card" allows passengers from MTS and NCTD to store regional transit passes and cash value on a rewritable RFID card. Customers can purchase passes and add cash value on the Internet or at any ticket vending machine. Prior to boarding a train, customers tap their Compass Cards on the ticket validator located on the train platform. The LED display on the validator then lights up with lights resembling that of a stoplight, and the LCD display shows text regarding the passenger's fare account.
The COASTER carried about 514,450 passengers during its first year of operation, and ridership rose steadily in the years that followed. In 2012, COASTER ridership was approximately 1.6 million people, with an average number of 5,600 weekday boardings.
Approximately 40% of weekday commuters detrain at Sorrento Valley.
|Siemens Mobility||SC-44 Charger||2018/2019||7||TBD|
|BiLevel Cab Car||1994||8||2301–2308|
In June 2018, the North County Transit District Board of Directors approved the purchase of five Siemens Charger locomotives to replace their existing five F40PHM-2C locomotives that were remanufactured by Morrison-Knudsen. Deliveries are expected to begin in August 2020, with $10.5 million of the estimated $53.9 million cost earmarked from statewide gas tax and vehicle registration fees. In June 2019, the North County Transit District Board approved the purchase of two additional Chargers (pending funding) to allow increased service levels and to supplement the existing order.
In August 2018, NCTD announced that they were seeking public opinions and input on a re-brand of the agency. This included two new paint scheme ideas for COASTER, along with the existing scheme being used as a third option. The new COASTER livery will be decided upon by agency officials depending on the public input and will be painted on the new Siemens Chargers and passenger cars in 2020.
NCTD maintains two rail storage yards for the COASTER. The main storage yard, located north of Oceanside at Stuart Mesa on Camp Pendleton, is just north of the Oceanside station stop. This is where cars are stored for the night and trains are serviced, although due to the small size of the yard, COASTER trainsets are also stored at the nearby Fallbrook Yard when out of service. Tracks 25, 26 and 27 of the San Diego Trolleys' yard at 12th and Imperial in Centre City San Diego is used to store train-sets during the midday and for weekday train staging, and is shared with the San Diego Trolley and the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad.
- Transportation in San Diego County
- Commuter rail in North America
- List of United States commuter rail systems by ridership
- "COASTER Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Coaster Schedule" (PDF). March 26, 2019.
- "COASTER Fact Sheet" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- "Rail Safety Tips". North County Transit District. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
- "NCTD: Past, Present and Future" (PDF). North County Transit District. January 2015.
- "Coaster". Trains Magazine. June 30, 2006. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- "Company picked to operate COASTER". San Diego Union-Tribune. December 2, 2005. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- "Coaster to tackle service delays, interruptions". San Diego Union-Tribune. May 26, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- Prey, Bill; Rekola, Brett (June 2011). Capacity Expansions of LOSSAN Corridor in San Diego (PDF). APTA Rail Conference. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) & North County Transit District. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
- "California launches $US 6bn North Coast Corridor project". International railway Journal. December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- "Marines, NCTD eye Camp Pendleton Coaster stop". The San Diego Union-Tribune. November 11, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
- "LOSSAN Rail Line - LOSSAN Rail Corridor Improvements". Keep San Diego Moving (TransNet). Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- St John, Alison (March 14, 2008). "SANDAG Board to Explore Viability of Del Mar Track Train Station". KPBS. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
- "COASTER - NCTD". North County Transit District. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "COASTER Schedule Effective April 1 - October 7, 2013" (PDF). North County Transit District. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 1, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "COASTER Stations". North County Transit District. 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Coaster Fares and Passes". North County Transit District. 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
- "Coaster 15th Anniversary Quick Facts" (PDF). North County Transit District. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- "State Gas Tax Increase Gives $10.5 Million For New COASTER Trains". KPBS. January 30, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- "NCTD board approves Siemens locomotive order". Progressive Railroading. June 18, 2019.
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